Tag Archives: inspiration

My typical day in the studio

Last month I participated in the Shoreline Arts Festival for the first time.

Shoreline is a city that’s located just north of Seattle. The Arts Festival is their long running annual summer event (it was their 26th annual festival!), and I had a great time! Everyone I interfaced with, staff, volunteers, and people in the community, were very welcoming and friendly. I got the vibe that the community supports arts of all sorts, and it was so nice!

Shoreline Arts Festival Honeyberry Studios booth
Me and my booth at the arts festival!

As part of their marketing for the event, the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council wanted to feature participating artists, and I got the honor of being interviewed for their blog article.

Their questions were really great, and it made me reflect on my inspirations, routines, and creative process. I don’t normally take the time to think about those things every day and wanted to share them with you! (I modified the original interview for the blog.) Perhaps it’ll inspire you to reflect on these yourself… 🙂

Hope you enjoy!

-Describe a typical day in the studio. Do you have a routine? What do you listen to when you do your creative work?

I work out of our small apartment in Columbia City (a neighborhood in SE Seattle) and my studio is usually my dining table 🙂

I usually get up between 4:30 and 5am every morning and meditate for half an hour to an hour. I sit quietly and focus on my breathing. My mind tends to wander, thinking about my day and what I need to do. When I notice my mind going elsewhere, I try to bring my attention back to my breathing and how I’m feeling in my body. Often my mind keeps wandering the entire time I sit, but it still helps me to start my day with calm and quiet mind.

After my meditation, I go to my workout class at the gym in the neighborhood or do some writing on days I don’t have my workout class.

I tend to do more of a “brain” work in the morning, like writing, marketing, and doing the finances etc., as I don’t naturally enjoy those tasks, and it takes more focus, and mornings seem to work better.

I often work on my creative/art work in the afternoon. I like to switch things up from doing a lot of the computer work in the morning to doing work using my hands in the afternoon if I can. I often doodle or sketch ideas in my sketchbook for fun, and I get most ideas for my art products (i.e. greeting cards and art prints) from my personal drawings. It can happen anywhere – at my desk in the home office, my dining table, or on the couch 🙂

Although I occasionally do writing at coffee shops, I hardly ever do my art work outside the home. Creative work feels more vulnerable, and I prefer to do it alone in the comfort of my own space.

I also set aside a couple of hours in the afternoon every week to read articles or do some learning, like watching a webinar. These are “fun” things for me and kind of a reward after taking care of my “business-y” tasks!

I make a point of not checking my email and social media until after my morning routine of mediation, workout, some writing, and breakfast because as soon as I dive into my email and social media, my mind gets cluttered with information. I have all the browser tabs and notifications off during the day so I don’t get distracted. I do manage my email and social media throughout the day when I have a small window of time between my other tasks.

One of the perks of being an independent artist is you have a lot of flexibility! Since my husband is also self-employed, we often take a break during the day to run errands or do some work in the gardens. When I had a regular job in the office, I would come home exhausted and then worked on my art after dinner and weekends, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time together. I really appreciate being able to be around him more 🙂

I work until 5:30-6pm or so and make dinner if it’s my turn to cook.

As far as what I listen to while I work, I either don’t listen to anything or play some easy music on Pandora (my favorite is Laid Back Beach Music station) while I write. When I do more visual work, I listen to a couple of podcasts related to business or storytelling podcasts, like This American Life and Moth Radio.

-What is your artistic medium of choice? Why?

My favorite artistic medium is pen and ink, markers, and watercolor. I use Sakura Pigma Micron pens and Koi Coloring Brush pens a lot for my drawings. The Micron pens work so smoothly and consistently. Their Koi Brush Pens come in a wide range of beautiful colors, and I enjoy layering the colors to create subtle hues. They’re portable and easy to use when you’re on the go as well! Perfect to take with you when you’re out and about and do a little sketch.

I’ve always enjoyed painting with watercolors, too. I love how they create softness and radiant light on paper.

I also block print on fabric and paper. I love the whole process of drawing, carving, and printing. It’s very tactile, and I find the block printing process to be meditative.

-Who or what inspires your work?

I often find my inspirations from nature, animals, and food. I love to eat!! 🙂 I notice little things when I walk around the neighborhood, like leaves on the ground or beautiful flowers in my neighbors’ gardens. We also grow some veggies at our apartment and a community garden, and it helps me stay connected with the soil and seasonal changes.

When I notice small everyday things that make me happy – like blueberries in our container garden glistening with morning dew or my cat happily napping in his favorite chair in the sunshine – I try to remember that feeling and express the joy in my artwork.

-What do you consider your biggest artistic achievement or accomplishment?

I’m a self-taught artist and began my practice in my early 30s. I was drawing and painting for several years as a hobby but never thought I could be a “real” artist. But last summer, I took a leap of faith and quit my day job to pursue my passion full-time!

It’s definitely not easy to make a living from your passion – I’ve experienced many ups and downs in the last year! But I feel so privileged to be able to follow my passion. I’m learning something new every day, and growing my creative business has been so rewarding.

-If you could only use one color for the rest of your artistic career, which would you choose and why?

Wow, what a great question! I would say black (though it’s not really a color…) if I had to choose one.

I love to create simple pen and ink line drawings and have phases every now and then where I create art with just black pen or sumi ink on white paper. No colors added. I enjoy the clean lines and how expressive simple black and white line drawings could be!

-What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about being an artist?

A few years ago, I was studying Graphic Design at Bellevue College. At the time, I didn’t believe I could be a working artist and wanted a more practical “job” skills that were also creative.

While I liked learning designs, I also had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t something I loved. 

On the last day of my portfolio review class, my instructor noticed how much I incorporated my drawings and illustrations in my portfolio pieces. She said I wasn’t a bad designer, but I should follow my heart and pursue art if that’s what I really wanted to do.

It’s kind of silly, but that one comment she made gave me a permission to follow my heart. It finally clicked for me that what I wanted to do was to make art, and that it was OK to do so wholeheartedly.

 

My Interview with Stephanie Medford at Everyday Artistry

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Hello!

I was so honored to be interviewed by Stephanie Medford on her blog Everyday Artistry the other day! Stephanie is an artist and encourages others to build a life full of creativity through her art and blog.

She’d asked me to share my creative process and how I embrace creativity in my daily life with her readers, and of course, I said yes!

Every time I’m asked to talk about my passion and process, I discover something I hadn’t thought about before. I wanted to share the interview with you and hope it inspires you to have creativity in your everyday living, too 🙂

You can read the full interview here. Enjoy!

xo Yuko

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Will you be my accountability partner? (Part 2 of 2)

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Hi!

I hope you enjoyed my interview with my friend and my accountability partner, Whitney Thoren, last week! It was nice for me to hear from her what her experience has been, and it also validated my reasons for having accountability meetings.

So, today you’re going to hear from my other (and original) accountability partner, Stefanie Robbins. Stef and I go way back. We were also co-workers at our old day job doing direct service for survivors/victims of domestic violence. We remained friends after she moved on to different things several years ago.  By the way, many people have told me I keep in touch with my old co-workers/friends very well. And it’s true 🙂 As adult, I don’t meet new people or make new friends very often, so ones I like I want to keep forever!

 

Earlier this year, I was itching to get an accountability partner. I’d been an avid listener of Seanwes podcast, and they talked a lot about accountability meetings. (Note: this episode focuses on why, how, and what of accountability partners if you want to learn more!)

I started thinking of who would be a good match for me. It needed to be someone I like and trust, someone who is working on creative goals, and our personalities have to work well together, too. And ideally, someone who lives nearby (I hate driving.)

And guess what? Stef met all of my accountability partner wish list!

So I began writing her an email asking if she’d be interested in being my accountability partner and meet regularly to check in on our goals. I was SO excited to reach out to her because I just knew our meetings were going to be awesome.

She responded to me with an interest, and we had our first meeting in March of this year. We’ve been meeting monthly since then. We typically meet at a coffee shop in our neighborhood and check in about how things are going and how we did with our goals. We support each other and help set goals for our next meeting.

I really appreciate her warm and friendly personality. She’s honest and kind. I also feel honored to be part of her support system because her music is so amazing and powerful! Every one should receive the gift of her music 🙂

I’m friends with both of my accountability partners, so we do talk about personal stuff, too. I feel I can support a person better if I have a bigger picture of what they’re going through outside of their career/creative goals. However, that’s more my personal preference, and it just works better that way with friends, so if you want to keep your accountability meetings more business, I think that works just fine, too.

OK, enough introduction from me!  Here is Stefanie!

Stef photo

Please introduce yourself to my readers. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi All! I am a mama, a musician, a therapist and each of these identities are front and center in my life right now. I have two children ages 5 & 9 and, as a family, we stay very engaged in our school community, Jewish community and neighborhood. I work half-time at a community mental health agency providing counseling to young people ages 5-22 and their families.

Since I was a child I was singing and making up songs. I started voice lessons at a young age, participated in choirs and musicals, attended a specialized performing arts high school and began University as a Music Theater Major. As I was “launching” into young adulthood I had a crisis of confidence (maybe it was pragmatism?) and stopped most avenues for performing that were familiar and had a structure I understood.

For a while, I dabbled in a bands, songwriting with friends, and “a Capella” over the next few years but nothing really stuck and filled the music (on a soul level) and I was aimless. Other parts of my life were blossoming at their own pace and, over all, going well – personal identity, career, a wonderful partner and marriage, house, kids – but something was deeply missing and it was music.

Something shifted in me after having my second child and I knew I needed to pursue my music goals and reach my own potential. The universe aligned and many of my fears and questions got the attention and answers needed to press on. I continue to do daily work on resistance and pushing through my doubts (some days are easier than others) and struggles and have found mountains of support from friends, family and a community of artists/musicians.

I completed my first EP “In the Sun” and am currently working on my first full-length album with the goal of recording in January 2016.

Why did you decide to become my accountability partner? What were your initial expectations?

Yuko initiated the conversation about being creative accountability partners and a few things helped me reach the decision to say yes. First, being asked! That is a huge piece of the puzzle! I was inspired by Yuko’s courage to be an artist and because I know Yuko to be reliable and kind, so I felt it was safe yet there was still a little jump to trying something unfamiliar.

I was familiar with the idea of mentorship and have enlisted support of many more experienced musicians for guidance and advice. What was different about Yuko’s ideas is that it is a partnership. My expectations were that we could support one another in our individual goals and that when we listen and teach each other, we learn and apply it to our own stories as well.

How has having an accountability partner helped you? Any examples of the changes you’ve noticed or progresses you’ve made in your own practice since you started meeting with me?

Having accountability and specific, concrete steps toward meeting lofty goals has been incredibly helpful. I have set goals in the past but often left too much time in between the goal and the deadline. With this model, we meet monthly and set baby-steps toward an overall bigger goal. One example of a change I made because of this partnership is when I was approached to do a performance for a non-profit that would also help me raise money for my album production and I was afraid to say no and lose the opportunity EVEN THOUGH my schedule was packed with other shows that were taking a lot of time and energy that I needed.

Through the accountability partnership I learned to shift my ideas around timing – not doing everything NOW is ok – but looking at the ways I can move things to fit what I am capable of doing. I reached out to the person who asked me to perform and suggested we revisit the idea in the fall and that is what we did. It worked out and we are in conversations now about how we can work together.

In your own experience, what are the most valuable things about having an accountability partner?

The infusion of energy and intention around my music and goals is incredible. I may come in to a meeting thinking I have not done enough that month or that I am off track but the point of meeting is to explore what I HAVE done (and to celebrate that) and what barriers were in the way (mental, financial, health, etc.) for what I haven’t yet done.

I find it very pragmatic and goal-oriented but also validating and supportive of where I am now.

What do you think are important to look for in an accountability partner?

I believe the things to look for are a person who be consistent (monthly works for me, about 60-90 minutes), a person with non-judgmental approach, and an active listener, practical and lofty (able to hold both), some ability to be vulnerable and share their own stories and struggles, someone who is invested in their own goals and can relate to what the other may be experiencing.

Any words of wisdom for someone who’s thinking about having an accountability partner?

Find someone who inspires you and approach them with the concept. You may be really surprised but many people are willing to be part of your support network if you ask.

And where can people find you?

Oooh! Self-promotion, yay! Uncomfortable! Necessary!

I have a website or I can connect with you on Facebook

Wonderful!! Thank you for taking the time to share with us! 

Do you have someone to check in about your goals? Find someone if you don’t! It’ll totally boost your motivation, and you can do the same for them too.

FYI – If you just can’t find someone in your community, I’m working on launching exciting new services to help provide on-going support and accountability to people pursuing their creative goals early 2016, so stay tuned!

Have a wonderful day!  See you next week.

xoxo Yuko

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Will you be my accountability partner? (Part 1 of 2)

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Hey friend,

I’ve shared in my past blog posts about how my accountability partners have helped me stay motivated and focused on my goals.

Accountability partners are someone you meet regularly to check in about your goals and provide support. Maybe you don’t need any external support to achieve your goals, but many of us do better when you know someone else is counting on you!

I used to practice Bikram Yoga (a type of hot yoga) a lot. The instructors often said “showing up is the hardest part of the practice” and it’s so true. You know it’s going to be hard. In the beginning of the class, I always thought “Why am I here? I’m going to DIE!!!” It’s SO hot in there. You sweat and hold difficult poses. You feel so beat and uncomfortable. But then after the class, you feel amazing. You feel so refreshed and renewed.

What motivated me to show up oftentimes was that I had a couple of buddies to go to the class with. Sometimes I gave them a ride, and the other times I just met with them at the studio. Either way, I chose to go to my yoga class because I knew they were expecting me to show up in some ways.

And once my yoga buddies moved on, it naturally became more difficult for me to consistently show up for the class. Boo!

Today, I want to shine a spotlight on one of my accountability partners, Whitney. We’ve been meeting monthly since June of this year. Whitney and I used to work together at our old day job and became friends. She moved on to a different job a few years ago, but we kept in touch because she’s a really cool lady and we like each other 🙂

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Hi Whitney! ❤

Whitney has since gone back to school to get her Master’s in Organizational Leadership. She also quit her day job earlier this year to start her own consulting & coaching practice!  Her thoughtful approach to helping others grow has really inspired me.

We were having dinner one day, and at that time I was contemplating getting a different day job that might be less stressful and draining. Whitney had just quit her day job then, and I had another friend who had just made a big switch to pursue her creative passion full-time.

I was totally inspired by their ability to quit their day job to pursue their dream and wanted a bigger push to make something happen in my life, too. I was telling Whitney about how my accountability meetings with my other partner, Stef, have been helping me stay on track. Whitney was going through her big transitions then and thought having an accountability partner might be helpful for her, too.

Naturally, we felt like we would be a good match because we knew and trusted each other already. We were also at a similar point in our life starting something new for ourselves and experiencing similar challenges. Plus, it helps me, an introverted homebody, get out of the house to actually see a friend regularly!

We usually meet once  a month over a meal (brunch or lunch). Monthly seemed reasonable for both of us. You could agree to meet more often if it feels necessary and doable, but I wouldn’t recommend no less than monthly especially if you’re a procrastinating type 🙂

Anyway, I wanted to hear how our accountability meetings have helped her achieve her goals, so I interviewed her!

Without further ado, meet Whitney.

Please introduce yourself to my readers.  Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi, I’m Whitney Thoren. I am originally from Colorado. I moved to Seattle about 6 years ago, which is when I met Yuko! I’m married to musician/designer, Irene. We live with our two cats in a funky old house in the north part of the city. I love to ride my vintage Honda motorcycle.

Earlier this year I left my full-time job, in an unrelated field, to start my own innovation consulting practice, Whitnums. I create and facilitate experiences related to change and growth for both for individuals and larger systems. I am inspired to help organizations be kinder and more empowering places for the people who work there. I’m currently in the process for building my reputation and finding clients.

Why did you decide to become my accountability partner?  What were your initial expectations?

The idea of an accountability partner seemed to emerge organically for Yuko and me. We were both in similar places in our professional lives, and agreed that having someone to offer a more specific type of support would be value in our process.

Not sure I had any initial expectations? We talked about the ways in which we can hold each other accountable for the tasks we set for ourselves. I think saying out loud, what you are working on when you work for yourself, helps to keep you moving forward. When you work alone it is much easier to let yourself off the hook 😉

I experience our accountability relationship as space to bring our challenges, personal and professional. We don’t always need an agenda. One of the great things we can offer each other space to share our fears and insecurities too. Sometimes those meetings are the most helpful.

How has having an accountability partner helped you?  Any examples of the changes you’ve noticed or progresses you’ve made in your own practice since you started meeting with me?

Our meetings gave me the push to try blogging! I feel insecure when it comes to my writing. It felt like a big leap to share something publicly, but I pushed through, and it was a real success. Now I just need to keep it up…

In your own experience, what are the most valuable things about having an accountability partner?

For me, it’s been really lovely to have someone going through a similar transition in life to talk with. Yuko understands the challenges AND the value in this process, no explanation required. Additionally, the consistency of our meetings is awesome. If I know I have a Yuko hang coming up, I better get my butt in gear 🙂

What do you think are important to look for in an accountability partner?

Someone who is serious about being there for you and has the space in their life for the commitment. Someone who is open to you and your feedback. Someone you trust.

 Any words of wisdom for someone who’s thinking about having an accountability partner?

Go for it! Nothing bad can come from it. It is truly a special relationship to gift yourself with.

 And where can people find you?

You can find me at:

whitnums.com
@whitnums
linkedin.com/in/whitneythoren

And you can learn more about my professional coaching practice for the alternative professional here –> Straight Talk with Queer Whitney

Thank you Whitney for sharing your experience with us!   I’m so fortunate to have you as a friend and my accountability partner!  I always look forward to our next meeting 🙂

Well, I hope you get a better sense of how helpful an accountability partner can be!  In my next blog post, I’m interviewing my other partner, Stefanie Robbins.  She’s an amazing person, and I can’t wait for you to meet her!  Stay tuned 🙂

Have a wonderful week, my friend ❤

xo Yuko

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Why I Decided to Take a Mini Sabbatical

sabbatical_loresHey guys!

This is my very first sabbatical blog post.  By the time this post comes out, I’ll have finished my first sabbatical week!  Woo hoo!

I’m following Seanwes‘ advice (I pretty much follow all of his advice) to take every 7th week off to step back from my day-to-day and recharge.  To learn more about the small scale sabbaticals, you can watch his short video or listen to this podcast episode.

If you’ve been following along my weekly blog, you probably know that I quit my day job to pursue art full-time at the end of July this year.  Ever since, I’ve been hustling pretty much non-stop.  I’m grateful for all the opportunities and all that I’m learning every day.

At the same time, I was drained.

It’s weird right?  You’re following your passion and are able to do what you love all the time.  I should be happy and more full of energy, shouldn’t I?

The thing is, it’s still work.  In a way it’s even more taxing than being in a day job because now you’re 100% responsible for whatever happens. I’m mentally more engaged every day, making all the decisions and thinking ahead.  And making a lot of art can be hard on your body, too.

When I was toying with the idea of taking a week off regularly,  I was hesitant at first.  I just started doing this full-time not too long ago, and my business is still at an early stage of growth.  Is it smart to take a week off now?  It’s not like I have paid vacation any more!  I started thinking, well, maybe I can take sabbaticals later when my business is bigger and then I can afford to take a time off.

And then I had to shift my mindset around a few things to really recognize the benefits of taking a regular time-off.

By taking a week off every 7 weeks, I may have a small loss in sales or client work.  But if I put off taking care of myself, I’m going to burn out for sure.  There is absolutely no doubt about that.  And if you’re burnt out, there will be no passion to pursue.  That’s the worst thing that can happen to any creative people, right?

When I worked with people affected by domestic violence in my old day job, we often talked about self-care as an ethical obligation.  Working with people with trauma could cause you to have secondary trauma, which will lead you to burn out.  If you don’t recognize the signs of burn-out and take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to help people effectively.  Not to mention your own happiness, and your personal relationships will suffer too.

I know that growing a business is hard work that could take many years.  If I put off taking care myself until I could “afford it”, 1) it may never happen because there are always things to do, and there is never a “good” time to take a time off, and  2) my business may never grow to the point where I feel like I can “afford it” because I’ll burn out and quit.  Neither option sounds good, does it?

So I’m making a commitment to take every 7th week off to step back and recharge.  I’m not going to wait to implement a good plan that’s going to help me and my business grow long term.  My future sabbaticals are already on my calendar so I know not to schedule any “work-y” stuff, like client meetings and project deadlines during that week.  I’ll probably stay away from my regular blog-writing though I might continue writing for a different project or for fun.  I’ll prepare a shorter blog post for each sabbatical week, so you won’t miss me 🙂

Some sabbaticals may just be me relaxing for a week.  But here are some of the things I’d like to do during my week-off:

  • Make art for fun and/or exploration
  • Learn new skills and information whether it’s about creativity, business, or something totally different (like cat whispering!)
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Focus on my long-term project – e.g. web redesign, new service development, future visioning etc.
  • Enjoy other creative things like crochet and sewing
  • Cook more
  • Pamper myself

I know for sure that the long-term benefits of taking mini sabbaticals far outweigh any short-term losses.  Plus, one week is not that long…  It’s not as big of a deal as taking a year off or something!  If you get behind during the week off, I’m sure you can catch up in the following weeks because your time off will make you even more productive.  Win win!

Oh I can’t wait to report back what I did this past week in my post next Sunday!

See you soon!

xoxo Yuko

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Happiness Project Reflection 9: Was It Worth It?

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Hey guys!

How was your week?  I hope you’ve been enjoying summer wherever you are.

Here in Seattle, it’s been sunny and beautiful.  My husband’s away for work most of the month, so I’ve been taking over taking care of our veggie gardens.  Some things in our gardens are growing like crazy (thumbs up to beans, eggplants, and cucumbers) and some not so much (thumbs down to tomatoes and zucchinis… Sadface.)

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So I had a full week since I quit my day job last week.  I can tell that it will take a long time to mentally transition to my new life 100%.  I can still feel the anxiety of “What am I doing at home?? Shouldn’t I be in the office?” from time to time.  I just take a deep breath and try to let it roll.

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One thing I did to start off my new artist life on the right foot was I went on a mini solo retreat over on Whidbey Island for a couple of days.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, guys.

This is where I stayed. So peaceful and beautiful <3
This is where I stayed. So peaceful and beautiful ❤

There is a saying in Japan that loosely translates to “When in hurry, take the long way.”  I was overwhelmed with all of my “to-dos” in my head and didn’t know where to start.  Although it didn’t feel “productive” to sit and think for two days, it was exactly what I needed.  I’ll write more about my solo retreat on my blog next week 🙂  There is so much to share!

Today’s post is the last of my Happiness Project Reflection series I’ve been writing about various learning moments that happened while creating art about happiness every day for 365 days.  But I don’t feel like I’ve properly acknowledged how awesome it is that I accomplished the big goal I set for myself.

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So today, I want to celebrate it by sharing the highlights of my growth and some opportunities that came out of my 365 Day Happiness Project!

You ready?  Here goes.

These are the highlights of what I’ve gained internally.  They’re powerful because these are things I will keep forever and will tap into in my creative journey ahead.

  1. I gained more confidence as an artist. 
    This one is big for me.  I’ve talked about it here often, but I’ve always felt insecure about my art.  It’s wonky and child-like.  But through the project, I’ve heard from so many people who appreciated the unique voice I added to the world by providing art that was mine.  I also heard from people that it gave them the confidence because they made art that was also kinda wonky.
  2. I’ve developed a discipline to keep a consistent creative practice every day.
    I rediscovered my love for art as an adult after not engaging in any sort of art activities for many years.  I would draw or paint when I felt like it but realized I needed a more consistent practice if I wanted to make a living by doing art.   By making a public commitment that I will be making and posting art every day for 365 days, I created an accountability measure for myself.  It really helped.  It helped create a habit to create every day.  Even though my daily project has been over for several months, I still make time to make art for myself every day no matter how busy it is.  It’s like workout – you just miss it if you stopped going even though working out is not always fun!
  3. I’ve deepened my artistic style.
    I talked about this in this post, but consistent daily practice is the most effective way to establish and deepen your artistic style.  You probably already have a style (or styles) you’re drawn towards – daily practice will give you many opportunities to find inspiration and hone in on your signature style.
  4. I’ve used art as a tool for healing.
    I knew art has many many intangible effects, but I experienced its healing power when I lost my kitty.  You can read more about the experience here.
  5. I took a risk every day by putting myself out there.
    I think this is reason enough for a celebration.  I don’t enjoy being vulnerable in public.  But I knew I had to get used to it if I wanted to become a successful artist.  It does get easier – after a while, being afraid of faceless/nameless haters gets old.  You learn to focus your energy on what’s helping you accomplish your goals, rather than what’s holding you back.
  6. I learned art is my passion and is worth pursuing with all of my heart.
    This is an interesting one.  I knew I liked drawing and wanted to pursue it.  But through the project, I really knew I was passionate about it.  I experienced how art feeds my heart and soul, and I experienced it on a regular basis.  It made me realize how much I wanted to experience that even more every day and that I needed to do whatever I could to pursue it.
  7. I learned hard work pays off.
    This is another big one.  I’ve heard many times “You work hard and put yourself out there, and the results will follow.”  But I didn’t know if or how it was going to happen for me.  This project has opened many doors for me as an artist in a way I didn’t expect to.  I’m a believer now 🙂

And, I’ve had other more tangible results as well!   Here are some:

  1. I have 365 new illustration pieces I didn’t have before.
    I mean, sort of duh, but I still think it’s splendid that I created 365 pieces of joy that didn’t exit before.  I may have mentioned before that I want to turn some of them into prints – I haven’t gotten to it yet, but it’s moving forward, so stay tuned for an announcement!
  2. I/my project was featured in a presentation my hero Lisa Congdon gave in Portland, OR.
    Lisa is one of my art heroes.  Her work  and the ways she approaches her work and life really resonate with me.  I talked about how Lisa’s daily projects inspired me to start my own in this post.  She was looking for people to submit their sketchbook project to include in one of her presentations, and I sent her my Happiness Project.  I was so honored when she said she’d include my project in her talk!!  I admit it: I’m a total fan girl – I was walking on clouds when she introduced my work as “her favorite” during her talk ❤  It was never my goal (and it still isn’t) to get a recognition from my heroes, but I was lucky enough to get it from someone I admired so much.  It was even sweeter because she was the reason why I started the project.  We remain friends, and she keeps inspiring me ❤
  3. I have 4 art shows this year, compared to 0 last year.
    Having an art show was a secret dream of mine this year.  I can’t remember why it was a secret 🙂 but it wasn’t something I was pursuing very hard either.  But after the Happiness Project finished, I had so many art pieces and felt they needed to be seen by more people.   So every chance I get, I was asking people if I could have a show.  Although it may feel awkward, you really need to ask for it if you want something.  You never know if someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer!  By asking for a show, I got 4 shows at local cafes and a restaurant!  They’re pretty low-key, low-pressure venues which is perfect to get my feet wet.  I just ended a show at a super cute cafe, Columbia City Bakery, in my neighborhood in July and received very positive reviews.  The coordinator has asked me to contact her again when I have new pieces to show 🙂

    Me and my mom at the show <3
    Me and my mom at the show ❤
  4. I received a generous care package from Sakura of America.
    You may know Sakura of America as a company who makes Micron pens, which I’ve used many of to draw.  They have been following me on Instagram since the Happiness project and asked if I wanted a care package from them!  I immediately said YES.  A few days later, I received a box full of beautiful pens, markers, and paints to play with.  What a wonderful surprise!  I’ve been having lots of fun creating with the new drawing supplies I received from them.  (My title illustration for today was created using their Koi Brush Pens.)  Sounds like I may be one of their guest Instagram posters in the future (in 2016) and may also be creating some tutorial videos for them.  Stay tuned!

    I even decorated pen holders using the new markers & pens <3
    I even decorated pen holders using the new markers & pens ❤
  5. It gave me at least 10 blog posts!
    It helped me tremendously to kick off my goal of publishing weekly blog posts.  I think of more things to write about the more I write, so I’m sure there will be more posts related to my experience from this project! 🙂
  6. As of today, I’ve brought in twice more $$ in sales and commission work this year than the entire year of 2014. 
    Granted it is not a lot of money at all (I would share the real number if it was more!) but still something to celebrate about!!  Woo hoo!  Growth is good even if it’s small.
  7. I’ve created communities that support and value my work.
    I wrote about how relationships are what fuel me to create and grow in this post.  And it’s really true.  My communities are continuing to grow, and I get so much encouragement and inspiration from them.  It is definitely the best thing I’ve gotten out of this project!!

When I started the project, I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t know if I would finish it or if anyone would care.  Yet I gained so much from it.  Much more than I’d ever expected.

They might be small wins but it means so much to me.  It tells me there will be more exciting opportunities for me as I continue to work hard and keep sharing what I have to offer.  I mean, imagine what I can accomplish now that I don’t have a day job to go to?  I want to squeal and do a lap around the apartment when I think of all the things I want to work on!!

Sure I’ve lost some sleep and fun social time, and that’s not to be taken lightly.  But was it worth it?  Absolutely.

Have you been working on any daily/weekly/monthly project?  Tell me about it in the comment!

p.s. This month, I’m working on a Daily Sketch Project with my fellow illustrator Janine Crum.  Check out my and other peeps’ daily sketch on Instagram hashtag #MakeWithMe.

p.s. 2 – Have you signed up for my e-newsletter yet?  I just sent out my first one and have been hearing very positive feedback about it 🙂  Join me here

Thank you guys!  It’s been a pleasure having  you in my community 🙂

xoxo Yuko

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Happiness Project Reflection 6: Practice Makes Perfect?

practice_lores

Hello friends!  I hope you’re doing well.

By the time this blog post comes out, I will have told everyone I know that I’m quitting my day job at the end of July!!!  It’s super scary and exciting.  I’m taking a break from having a regular job so I can devote more time and energy into pushing my art/illustration career forward for a while.  I will write more about my exciting life change later in another blog post! Stay tuned!  It’s a HUGE change, believe me!

Now back to our regular programming 🙂

Today I’m reflecting on the concept of “practice makes perfect.”  I mentioned on my Why I Want to Write Regularly post that I set a goal to write regularly because I’ve never felt writing was my thing.  It takes me a long time to put my thoughts on a paper in a coherent and compelling way.  In order for me to feel comfortable putting something in the world, I need to be able to formulate my thoughts, analyze it  and organize it.  Over and over.

One of the many benefits of doing the 365 Day Happiness Project was I forced myself to draw something every day.  Before that, I drew occasionally.  I would draw when I had specific projects to work on and then get busy with other things in my life.   I knew that wasn’t a good practice if I wanted to be a working artist/illustrator.  How would I know if I like having a career in art if I didn’t know what it’s like to draw every day all the time?

I also mentioned in my Your Imperfections are OK post that you may never feel your work is “100% perfect” no matter how much you practice.  You will get better, though, and you will find your voice or your “style” through consistent practice.  In fact, it may be the only way to get better and develop your own style.

In the beginning of my 365 Day Happiness Project, I would sketch in pencil first and then trace it with pen because I was afraid to make a mistake.  I was also trying different styles of hand-lettering and writing too.   I would create the lettering separately, scan in both the drawing and lettering, digitally color them in, and make one picture to post.  Sometimes I would use a drawing pad to write my words.

I made these drawings using this method:

chairWeb

tea_cup

I quickly became tired of how very time-consuming it was, and so I began experimenting with just drawing with pen without first sketching with pencil.  It was scary at first.  My drawings were already kinda wonky, so it didn’t make a big difference in the quality.  But I grew to like how relaxed and organic everything looked.  Not to mention time-saving!  Well, except for when I couldn’t get something right and had to draw over and over… :p

These are examples of pen drawings from the early days:

peonies_web

ramen_web
I use Pigma Micron pens in case you’re wondering.

You might notice that I was much more experimental with my hand lettering in my early days.  I wanted fancy hand-lettering to be my “thing.”  I took a hand-lettering e-course by Seanwes and drooled over many fancy hand-lettered pieces on the internet.  Although I still love beautiful hand-lettered pieces and try a few different styles now and then, I settled on these very casual hand-writing/lettering styles.  I think it works well with my overall style.

tortilla-chips_web lilacs_web

 

I still just draw with a pen or a paint brush for many of my works.  I love that that’s my style.  It’s not “perfect” but it is “me”.  Simple, relaxed, and friendly.  Just the way I want you to feel when you see my art!

I’m going to say this again.  Don’t worry about becoming “perfect“: It is a dangerous trap for many of us.  What you want to see is improvement in your work over a period of time.  It’s easier to see your improvements if you compare your work from a year ago vs. a week ago (unless you put in many many hours of practice in one week!)  Are you happier with what you made?  Are you consistently producing high (or higher) quality work?  Are you putting in your best effort into your work?  What about your work says it’s yours?

Close out of your Instagram or Pinterest feeds now, and get making your own thing 🙂

You can do it!

xoxo  Yuko

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Happiness Project Reflection 2: Creating When You’re Not Inspired

Inspiration_banner_loresHello friends!

I hope you had a lovely week.  Welcome to my Happiness Project Reflection series blog post No. 2!

Have you ever felt like your creative juice had stopped flowing and don’t know if or when it’s coming back?  Felt like you aren’t a “real” artist because you aren’t inspired to draw, paint, write, cook, or make something all the time?  Do you think all the successful creative people wake up every morning full of inspiration and motivation to create?

I used to believe it too.  But you know what?  That is not how it actually works.

No matter how passionate you are, the inspiration and motivation to create don’t always come naturally or freely.  Creation takes work.  It’s about having your own unique voice and experiences and using your skills to turn them into something others can see, touch, taste, hear, smell, feel, and appreciate.

The creative process can be painful at times: you may feel frustration, self-doubt, or disappointment.  You have a vision but what you create doesn’t quite cut it.  You feel even less inspired because what you’ve just created is far from inspiring.

You may have seen/heard this quote from Ira Glass before.  Every time I look at it, I feel humble and reassured.  Everyone feels this way, and it is totally OK.

Poster by Nikki Hampson
Poster by Nikki Hampson

If you love making things just for fun, it is totally cool to wait until the  inspiration hits you.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  I know many talented artists who choose not to pursue a career as an artist and are completely happy making art for fun.

But If you really want to turn your passion into a thriving career, then you need to create even when you’re not inspired.

When I made a public commitment to start my 365 day Happiness is project, I knew it was the kick in the pants I needed to keep a daily creative practice going.  On some nights, after I came home exhausted from my day job, I would eat dinner, do the dishes, and sit down at my desk staring at the blank page in my sketchbook without an inspiration.  I would browse the internet hoping an inspiration would hit and end up wasting over an hour reading my friends’ updates on facebook.  On other days, I would have a vision but couldn’t  execute it right.  I would draw, and it would look like crap.  I would whine and moan and feel like a fraud drawing about happiness.  Sometimes I felt like I was squeezing a lemon that had been squeezed 100 times to get just one more drop.

At the end of each day, I still managed to find something to feel happy about and made and shared a drawing every day for 365 days.  And that was so rewarding and worth all the pain and lost sleep!

inspired_white_lores

Are you struggling to create every day?   Do you need a little push to get you going?  Here are some suggestions!

  1. Make your commitment public. Tell your friends and family.  Announce it to your followers on social media. This has been the most effective method for me so far.
  2. Take advantage of the “free” time you already have.  Doodle something while waiting for your drink at a coffee shop.  Create your post-it art collection while listening to a webinar.  It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece.  You just want the creative activity to be part of your everyday life.
  3. Make your goal realistic.  Maybe making an elaborate painting every day isn’t feasible but doing a 15 minute doodle is.  Consistency is more important than having a fancy goal you’re going to quit after 3 days.
  4. Set perimeters and limits for your creative project.  When you have total freedom, you may feel overwhelmed and don’t  know what to do.  Give yourself perimeters like “only draw with black ink” or “draw a cat wearing a suit in 30 different ways”.  After all, creativity is most required when you’re put in a box!  Ask someone to give you a prompt if that’s helpful.  My non-artistic husband is full of interesting prompts when I need them.
  5. Participate in creative challenges ! – there are many challenges out there – I found this article about Instagram Challenges, and Spoonflower has a weekly design contest. Speaking of which, I’m currently participating in a 30 Day Sketch Challenge on Instagram (#MakeWithMe with @janinecrum)  It’s nice to have a group of folks who are working on the same goal, and it’s always inspiring to see different styles of art people create!
  6. Clarify the connection between your daily practice and your long term goal.  I’m realizing this more and more.  When you know how your daily practice (e.g. daily happiness doodle) is helping you achieve your big goal (e.g. be a full-time working artist), it becomes more meaningful and engaging for you.

Remember, your goal should be about creating something on a regular basis, if not daily, even if it doesn’t look perfect or nobody “likes” it.  When you make a bunch of work, chances are, you will find more inspirations from your own work.  It could be the 10th drawing of an apple that turns out just right that makes you want to create a series of drawings of tree fruits.  Or it could be that someone telling you your daily sketch challenge inspired them to do the same.  You just never know until you do it!

Tell me what helps you create when you’re not in a mood.  We all have those days.

I look forward to continuing with my Happiness Project Reflection series blog post next Sunday!

Thanks for reading and take care!

xoxo  Yuko

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Happiness is: Day 177

Happiness is an inspirational art talk.
Happiness is an inspirational art talk.

I went to the SkechXchange event in Portland, OR this evening, where artist/illustrator Lisa Congdon spoke about her creative process and her use of sketchbooks.  She mentioned my daily “Happiness is” project in her presentation, and that was really cool!  I feel so happy and inspired 🙂

Get Inspired: 365 Day Challenge!

I just watched a video of one of my favorite artists/illustrators, Lisa Congdon‘s talk “Embrace the Abyss”  where she talks about vulnerabilities of creativity.  One of the things she talked about was challenging herself to go outside of her comfort zone every day and pushing herself to be better at her crafts.  One example of that is her 365 days of hand lettering.  Amazing!

私が大好きなアーティスト、リサ・コングドンさんのビデオ、「Embrace the Abyss」をさっき見ました。彼女は自分のアーティストとしての不安や弱気に感じることなどを語り、その不安を乗り越えるためには日々、自分自身に課題を与えてチャレンジし続けている、と言っていました。

WOW, I’m so inspired!  I’ve decided that I’m going to also embrace my creative vulnerabilities and share a drawing journal about happiness every day for the next 365 days!

彼女の話を聞いてとってもインスパイアされました!私も不安や自信の無さを乗り越え、もっといいアーティストになれるように、これから365日間、毎日「幸せ」をテーマにした絵日記をシェアしていきます!

365